The High Court has dismissed a constitutional challenge to the procedures of the Workplace Relations Commission which adjudicates on workplace disputes.
The case arose when claimant Tomasz Zalewski took a case to the WRC after his employer Buywise Discount Store Ltd., dismissed him from his post as a supervisor.
Mr Zalewski lodged claims in relation to unfair dismissal and payment in lieu of notice, which were referred to WRC adjudicator Rosaleen Glacken.
The WRC hearing commenced on 26 October 2016 with Ms Glacken receiving written submissions and documentation from parties, but after a few minutes she granted an adjournment at the request of the employer.
The hearing was subsequently rescheduled for 13 December 2016.
According to Mr Justice Garrett Simons, when the case reconvened on that date, "events then took what can only be described as a bizarre turn".
When the parties arrived, they were informed that a decision had already been issued in respect of the claim, and that the hearing date had been scheduled "in error".
"This was so notwithstanding that a full hearing of the claim had never taken place," said the judge.
Thereafter, a five-page decision dismissing Mr Zalewski's claim was issued by the adjudication officer which the judge said "... reads as if a full hearing had, in fact, taken place."
The decision is dated 16 December 2016, although the parties were told on 13 December that the decision had already been made.
The judge states: "It would seem from this chronology that the adjudication officer went ahead and issued her decision notwithstanding that she had been on notice of the fact that no proper hearing had taken place."
After Ms Glacken dismissed Mr Zalewski's claims, he took a constitutional challenge to the procedures of the WRC regarding how claims should be heard and determined.
Mr Zalewski argued that the flaws in how his case was handled were indicative of a "systemic or structural failing" in the operation of the WRC adjudication process.
He also argued that cross-examination would have been essential to properly resolve factual disputes between the parties, but that the WRC procedures do not expressly provide for this.
In addition, Mr Zalewski contended that an adjudication upon the claims involved the administration of justice, and was thus reserved to a court of law.
He also argued that he wanted a public hearing to vindicate his right to a good name.
The State had previously conceded that the WRC decision issued by Ms Glacken was invalid, and consented to it being set aside - but contended that the resolution of such disputes had been properly entrusted to adjudication officers in the first instance, with a right of appeal to the Labour Court.
Dismissing Mr Zalewski's case, Mr Justice Simons ruled that the WRC lacked the ability to enforce its own decisions, which he described as "one of the essential characteristics of the administration of justice."
He said that the necessity of having to make an application to the District Court to enforce a decision of an adjudication officer or the Labour Court "deprives such determinations of one of the essential characteristics of the administration of justice."
"Whereas the function to be exercised by the District Court, is a narrow one, it cannot be dismissed as a mere rubber-stamping of the earlier determination," said the judge.
He noted that the District Court's discretion to modify the form of redress represented "...a significant curtailment of the decision-making powers of the adjudication officers and the Labour Court", as it could overrule their decision.
He also found Mr Zalewski argument that the procedures of the WRC were deficient was "not well founded."
He ordered that the matter should be sent back to the WRC for a re-hearing with a different adjudication officer - but put a stay on the order for 28 days in case of an appeal.